Smart Home Technology – The Basics
Smart Home Technology can change the way you live in your home, and change it in a good way! You can have the A/C turn on as you leave work, the lights turn on as you drive into the garage, the espresso machine ready as you lock up your car, and monitor your home security cameras from anywhere in the world.
Home automation has become extremely popular, because it improves your lifestyle, ramps up security and can even help to decrease your power bills. What’s even better is that it doesn’t take a tech genius to set your house up with a range of smart home technology. The problem is though – there’s so many products out there – where do you start?
Choosing the type of smart home technology
Basically, you can choose a product that works via its own app or via a smart home wirless platform, some even let you decide whether to use an app or a home hub to control them. Example of devices that work via an app are the Ring video doorbell and Nest home security products. You download the app to your smartphone and then control the function of these products via your smartphone.
Other products communicate directly with smart home hubs, such as Wink or Samsung’s SmartThings and you control their functionality via these hubs. There are other home hubs on the market, such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, Alexa, and the list goes on…
All of this can seem very overwhelming for someone who is new to smart home technology, but it becomes easy if you start off small with one or two products. Many people begin with their home security, because there are many affordable DIY camera options on the market that you can install yourself – if you are handy with a screwdriver. Another popular product is the Ring video doorbell (as mentioned above) that you can answer using your smartphone, see who is at the door and speak to them anywhere in the world.
So your first step is to decide what type of smart home technology you want to use in your home first – then install it and get used to using it. Just one word of caution here however, and that’s to select a product that has the widest possible compatibility. By this we mean that if you install the Ring doobell and use it via your app, consider whether you might want security cameras that can also be linked with this product, and maybe later down the road, a home hub as well.
It’s easier to think forwards, than install a variety of smart home technology and realise later that none of them will work through your new home hub. You can end up with a mishmash of technology that doesn’t work well together or make your life any easier!
First, let’s take a look at some of the technology you can install in your home and then we will look at the home hubs that you can use to integrate all your home automation devices together inside your home.
What smart home technology do you want?
Since you are new to home automation, select something that’s going to make your life easier immediately, so you can appreciate its benefits straight away. All of these products will improve your life in some way, but if you keep having your parcels stolen from your doorstep, for example, a video doorbell or an external security camera might be your first choice. Here’s a few home automation ideas you might like to try that are easy to setup and use.
Installing security cameras in strategic positions, both inside and outside your home, allows you to protect your home, valuables and your family from theft or home invasions. You can set them up to send you alerts on your smartphone when they are activated by motion and some can even be configured to sound an alert throughout your home (hopefully to startle the burglars) and call the emergency services. You can also install hidden cameras, so that burglars or thieves don’t know that they are being observed.
If you have young children in your family and you leave them with a sitter, a nanny cam can help to give you the peace of mind knowing that you can tune in and watch what’s going on at home, anytime, anywhere. You can also use the nannycams to speak to your children and see them on video when you are at work, even helping them with their home work or alerting your partner that the baby is awake in the nursery. You can do all this via an app on your smartphone.
These give you the ability to respond to the doorbell from anywhere in your home without having to actually go to the door. You can be in the kitchen or even working in the back garden and still answer the doorbell. You can also be at work and answer the doorbell, making people believe that you are in the house (some burglars ring the bell to see if anyone is at home).
Internal and external lights
You can either install smart light bulbs or smart switches in your home. The bulbs can be operated via your smartphone, where you can set it so that specific lights turn on at a specific time or manually turn them on before you arrive home. Smart switches also let you control your lighting, but from inside your home, by voice commands.
Airconditioning and heating
If you already have A/C installed in your home and you have a home hub, for example Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple Siri, you can purchase a device that pairs with your remote controlled A/C and lets you control it anywhere in the world via an app on your smart phone. One that comes to mind is Sensibo that lets you control, monitor and automate your A/C, even helping you to save money on your bills. You can even install a smart thermostat that monitors the temperature in your home and dials it down to save you money.
There are variety of smart door locks on the market that allow you to lock or unlock the door remotely and store multiple user codes. They also have built-in alarms and can connect to your home automation platform, so that they can be operated by voice within your home. One that comes to mind and has lots of great reviews is the Schlage Z-Wave, as it works with Alexa via SmartThings, Wink or Iris, and another is the Amazon Key Home Kit that operates via an app on your smartphone.
For more information on smart home gadgets – read my post here – 10 Best Smart Home Gadgets.
Should you install a home hub?
If you are going to become serious about smart home technology, then you really need to install a home hub, as this brings it all togethr and integrates your devices in one place. It’s worth mentioning at this point however, that not all devices work together with one hub, so it can take a little bit of research at the start, to decide which devices you want to use and selecting the ones that work together well. In the end, you might need to find a work around to get some of your devices to integrate, but it can be done if you are determined!
The other option is to choose a home hub first, before puchasing any other devices – and after identifying all the devices that work with that hub. You can do this by going to the devices home page and checking on their compatibility with other devices.
Popular home hubs include Amazon Echo that integrates flawlessly with Alexa, Google Home and Samsung SmartThings, all of which are compatible with a wide range of devices. As an example, if voice controls are important to you in your home, then it’s worth investigating Alexa and purchasing devices that integrate well with this device.
At the end of the day, smart home technology should make your life easier, not harder, and if you do some research before investing your money, you should easily create a system that works well for you and your family.